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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Comeback Kids were at it again Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena as they overcame a 19-point second quarter deficit to earn a 102-96 victory over the Lakers that was not only replenishing for thirsty Jazz fans, but a potential indicator of the kind of season Utah may be capable of having.
"(This win) lets us know what kind of talent we have in this locker room," Ronnie Price said. "To come out and defend our home court against a team that everyone's trying to beat is a great example to our team and our character."
The Jazz began the game with four solid minutes before Los Angeles put together a 12-0 run and extended their advantage to as many as 19 in front of a crowd that relishes Laker defeats almost as much as Jazz wins. With the Lakers quickly gaining control of the game, it looked as though a month of exciting come-from-behind victories from the Jazz might be overshadowed by another loss to a Western Conference foe that has played spoiler for thrilling stretches of success on numerous occasions.
Watson and Price, they're both very good basketball players...so it wasn't unexpected at all.
But, after gaining some confidence from erasing the double digit road deficits they faced against the Clippers, Heat, Magic and Bobcats earlier in the month, the Jazz gave themselves a few minutes to regain their composure and promptly resumed attacking their opponent in the second quarter behind a collective effort from their bench that was simply unmatched by the Lakers'.
"That's what they do. That's what helps them come back. It wasn't unexpected at all," Kobe Bryant said. "Watson and Price, they're both very good basketball players, been in the league for years, so it wasn't unexpected at all."
Replicating the game-changing performances they put forth in Utah's 105-87 win over the Hornets Wednesday in Salt Lake City, backup guards Earl Watson and Price took the court and control of the Jazz offense in the second quarter and pushed Utah to a 15-3 run, bringing the men in white within four points of the Lakers before the end of half.
Watson and Price combined for 15 second quarter points, while Watson added four assists and three rebounds to Utah's box. The two enhanced their contribution with big hustle plays and aggressive attacks on the Lakers' defense, and exposed areas of opportunity for Utah's offense - as well as flaws in L.A.'s offense - that would be utilized throughout the remainder of the game.
To me, this win goes to the second unit. They (are) the ones that got us back in the game and gave us that energy.
"To me, this win goes to the second unit. They (are) the ones that got us back in the game and gave us that energy," Al Jefferson said. "When they do a job like that, we don't have no other choice but to come back in and take it over."
The Jazz kept their thumbs on the throttle throughout the second half of the game, despite 14 fourth quarter points from Bryant that put the Lakers back on top by five with two and a half minutes left in the game.
"We (knew) there was no need to panic," Deron Williams said. "I thought coach (Jerry Sloan) did a great job of making adjustments and doubling Kobe, getting the ball out of his hands. I thought once they did that, the rest of the (Lakers) got stagnant."
Jefferson and Williams put up six and nine points in the fourth quarter on their way to 20- and 29-point performances, respectively, and allowed the Comeback Kids to withhold another opponent and improve their overall record to 12-5, including a 6-3 mark at home. The win bumped Utah's all-time at-home record against Los Angeles to 40-36.
"It's a big stepping stone for us as a team," Raja Bell said. "We've played some pretty good teams and come back, but we haven't played anyone with the resume of the Lakers and been able to come back, especially at home where we've struggled a little bit."